Laura Dockrill

Named one of the top ten literary talents by The Times and one of the top twenty hot faces to watch by ELLE magazine, Laura is a young, talented writer/illustrator who is a graduate of the Brits School of Performing Arts. Laura has been a roaming reporter for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, run workshops at the Imagine children's literature festival on the South Bank, and is on the advisory panel at the Ministry of Stories.

Q: What books did you read when you were a child?
A: I read ANYTHING by Roald Dahl. I was (am) a huge fan of Jacqueline Wilson; those books made me feel really grown up. And of course, The Goosebumps series.

Q: If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
A: Tracy Beaker obviously, even though her life was so sad, it employed a perfect sense of ‘human’ that a child really looks for when growing up. Beaker had issues and dealt with them naturally and I found that so special.

Q: What is the best thing about reading?
A: The best thing about reading, other than the blissful escapism, the falling into a new world, is actually the calming effect it has. It’s quite trance like, once your eyes and brain adapt to a writer’s voice.

Q: What is your all time favourite book?
A: What a hard and difficult and absolutely vile and horrid question. I’ll try! Where The Wild Things Are, The BFG, The Witches, The Twits, There’s An Awful Lot Of Weirdo’s In Our Neighbourhood and Meeting Midnight by Carol Ann Duffy.

Q: Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
A: It is vital that a parent communicates, whole-heartedly, with their children. Having a conversation without patronizing them or cushioning them is truly important. I am not a parent, yet, but I have grown up covered in kids and meet new children all the time. What amazes me is how many children suffer from low self-esteem and lack in confidence, not just in creativity but in themselves. Children have amazing things to say, they are learning each and everyday, every minute is a new one, every moment is a first and they should feel free and comfortable to express themselves, in front of other children and adults. I feel like ‘speaking’ should be encouraged more in school and at home, because once that fear is installed in a person, it’s a difficult hunch to shake and can buckle somebodies future; something as simple as speaking out loud. From what I gather, it is a relationship built on trust. The more you trust them, the more they will open up to you. Reading is just the same but some children run to reading as a form of private conversation, which is terrific, but they mustn’t lose the magic of conversation.

Q: How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A: My mum and dad are hugely creative. The best thing about them was they never patronized me; they spoke and respected me like a mate. I grew up around lots of (mainly drunk) adults and so loved having conversations and interacting with them was something I thrived on. My mum and dad would say I had a flare for writing but I never saw it as anything particularly special (not that I do now), as far as I knew, I was a kid and kids should just believe they are good at stuff because that’s what being a kid is all about. It’s about play and experimentation. Nothing was dumbed down (to a certain limit obviously) for me a child and I respected that and because of that I felt comfortable to share my work with them. My parents were never really ‘kids art work on the fridge’ kind of people but they were, ‘let’s get our friends over and Laura can read her new story to them’ kind of parents, which was much more fun, plus I really just enjoyed showing off. I used to ‘re-write’ the Greek myths when I was younger and my dad would bind them for me (I say bind, I mean staple) it was important for us all to see that completion. My mum was always writing scripts too and she would read them aloud, my dad would point out lyrics he liked in songs or lines in films, I knew, even back then, I was fed creativity, but I really want to stress and say it wasn’t plunged down my throat or ‘overly hippified’ we just knew we had stuff in common, I see it as my parent’s carving themselves little mates to hang out with, customizing us for their own good engagement, fattening us with culture references from the ages so we had something to talk about over a pint fifteen years later, in a weird Frankenstein-sort-of- way, but it worked, we all love each other. I hated grammar at school, and am still ghastly at it, but I didn’t and haven’t let it stop me explore writing; I have my parents to thank for that. I don’t let my poor use of the apostrophe trap my thoughts or what I want to say. It’s down to somebody a child really loves and respects to remind them that they can have access to something like writing.

Q: How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
A: I don’t have children but when I do, I think I will do a little polite suggesting, I remember my mum begging me to read Milly Molly Mandy and Goodnight Mister Tom and me being like ‘shut up!’ but once I read them, I was head over heels in love. As far as being a granny knows I want to be a storyteller, a proper one. With a fat belly tucked under a fuzzy salmon jumper, spinning stories about everything, I will lie and exaggerate and improvise and elaborate and hopefully, they will pick up a love for language that way. And they can read my books, of course! Reading is such a private thing, however, you can recommend, but individuals deserve the right to their own relationship with literature. No person can create that journey for you. My Dad bought me a guitar when I was eight. I had to go to lessons every Wednesday, I hated it and kept saying I wanted to give up, my dad begged me to keep playing (he has a Joe Strummer soul inside him) and finally, after five years, I eventually refused to go back to lessons and he had to accept that. Ironically, now I do song writing for other musicians and the ability to play the guitar would have probably really helped me, but I had to make my own path, I couldn’t let my dad decide that for me. As far as I can see, he has hands and if he wants to learn the guitar himself, he can do that. He’d make a pretty good rock star.

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